Part of a series of brief posts offering a perspective on the conflict in Palestine
Human rights and the future of Palestine | Location location | A time between empires | Zionism as a colonial project | Jewish migration to Palestine | Dividing Palestine | The war of 1948 | Wars and rumors of war | Palestinian resistance | Creating a shared future in Palestine
In the absence of a formal peace treaty between the protagonists of 1948, the various armistice agreements mostly sufficed to maintain calm. There were occasional incidents and the survival of Israel as a distinctively Jewish state within the Middle East was far from certain. Cold War politics impacted on the situation as the UUSR and its allies tended to support the Arabs, while the USA and its allies tended to support Israel. Jordan was unusual as it enjoyed good relations with both Britain and the USA, while Iran was also firmly in the Western sphere of influence prior to the Islamic Revolution 1979.
The Suez Crisis of 1956
In response to the nationalization of the Suez Canal by the Egyptian government in July 1956, Israel invaded Egypt with the active support of Britain and France. Despite initial military success, the campaign was abandoned due to opposition from both the USA and the USSR.
The Six Day War of 1967
When Egypt reinstated an earlier naval blockade of Israeli shipping in the Straits of Tiran leading into the Gulf of Aqaba tensions soared once more. On 5 June 1967 Israeli forces launched a pre-emptive attack that destroyed most of the Egyptian air force and this was followed by a land invasion of the Sinai Peninsula, the capture of East Jerusalem from Jordan and the capture of the Golan Heights from Syria.
This brief military operation was a stunning success and gave Israel uncontested control of all Palestinian lands west of the Jordan River. East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel on 27 June 1967 and the reunified city was declared the “undivided and eternal capital” of the Jewish people. Very few countries have recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or the annexation of East Jerusalem. Since June 1967 the Jewish character of the city has been intentionally developed, while the rights of its Palestinian residents have been curtailed.
Since the 1967 war, Israel has maintained a significant edge in its military dominance of the region, with no Arab nations able to match its fire power.
The War of 1973
In October 1973, Egypt and Syria launched a coordinated series of attacked in the Sinai and the Golan. After some initial success, the Arab coalition forces were eventually defeated with Israel forces advancing deep into both Egypt and Syria. Despite the eventual success of the Israeli military, this conflict gave new impetus to moves for a diplomatic solution based on the principles of land for peace. Under the Camp David Accords signed in 1978, a formal peace treaty was signed between Egypt and Israel, and the Sinai was returned to Egypt.
1982 Invasion of Lebanon
Israel invaded Lebanon in July 1982, citing numerous provocations including an assassination attempt against its ambassador to the UK. The objectives of the invasion were to break the power of the PLO (which had been shelling the northern areas of Israel from bases in Lebanon), install a Christian government and sign a peace treaty with Lebanon. The PLO was eventually expelled to Tunisia and its influence greatly weakened. It proved impossible to install a pro-Israel Christian government, and withdrew from Beirut to the area south of the Litani River where it established a security zone in collaboration with a pro-Israel militia force, the South Lebanon Army. The campaign was marked the massacres by Christian militia at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, and an international investigation later attributed considerable responsibility for these events to the Israeli general (and later politician), Ariel Sharon. Israel sustained its control of the security zone in southern Lebanon until 1990 and the war became increasingly unpopular with the Israeli public. While Israel largely succeeded in its aim of eliminating PLO influence, its intervention in Lebanon is widely seen as contributing both to the rise of Hezbollah (filling the vacuum left after the collapse of the PLO) and an extended intervention in Lebanese politics by Syria.